Nissan’s Qashqai, the oh, so Canadian small wagon, comes in one shape and size, but pricing runs from affordable to premium.
The budget-friendly version of the Qashqai, the newest sorta-small SUV (sport-utility vehicle) in a burgeoning field, stickers at a reasonable $19,998, plus $1,950 for freight and such. By today’s standards, it’s pretty basic, right down the manual six-speed gearbox that manages power to only the front wheels.
If Nissan Canada sells six of these starter models a year, I’ll be surprised. Classic price leader. It’s in the lineup to get your attention and appease the teeny tiny handful of shoppers who want just the basics in a tall wagon – cloth interior, manual gearbox…
At the other end, you’ll find the all-the-bells-and-whistles Qashqai SL ($29,498) with around-view monitor, leather upholstery, heated steering wheel and such. To this, add in the $2,700 Platinum package of generally unnecessary electronic nannies (intelligent cruise control, blind spot and lane departure warning and so on) and you have the $34,000-plus Qashqai.
Yes, it’s very easy to boost the base price of a Qashqai by some 75 per cent. SEVENTY-FIVE PER CENT. (See payment details below.)
Here’s the deal: I’ve tested both and these two are as different as ice dancers and hockey players. Both strap blades on their feet, but where the dancers wiggle into skin-tight Halloween costumes and tip-toe across the ice, the hockey types bulk up with padding and try to knock each other through the glass, chasing a little piece of rubber around.
Let’s start with the most standard of Qashqais. It looks good on paper, right down to the heated front seats. But compared to the luxurious Qashqai SL, the base car feels heavy, even lumpy, and boxing gears in a small SUV is super-retro and not in a good way.
Both versions of the Qashqai get a 2.0-litre four-banger (141 horsepower), yet the continuously variable automatic in the SL smooths out the performance and maintains your in-traffic sanity. If you go cheapo with your Qashqai, at least spend $2,000 on the CVT.
You, of course, want to know if the Qashqai is a better choice than, say, a Honda HR-V, a Toyota C-HR, or a Mazda CX-3. Or even a Mini Countryman.
The CX-3 is hands-down the most enjoyable to drive – athletic and sure-footed. But it feels small compared to the Nissan, as do the Honda and the Toyota – and the latter two look as though they were styled by six-year-old children just given a box of Crayolas.
If I were looking purely for functionality in a smallish package at a reasonable price, this new Nissan is a standout. If quality and resale are paramount, the Honda and the Toyota rank highly. If I want a driver’s SUV – oxymoron, I know – I’d take the Mazda.
The Qashqai is new to Canada and it’s well-considered. The tight 11.5-metre turning circle is what you want in the city and the centre of gravity (lower than Nissan’s Rogue) is station wagon-like, putting the hip point in line for easy slide-in entries and slide-out exits. No bending.
The little direct-injection engine is fuel efficient and strong enough for everyday chores, though it strains when your rig is loaded or going up a steep hill. I was very impressed with real-world fuel economy and the CVT tries to mimic a seven-speed automatic. You don’t feel like you’re driving a snowmobile. Or a John Deere or any sort.
As for room, well, if you’re a bigger sort, you’ll be happy up front, less thrilled in the rear, but everyone will like the cargo room and flexibility. The 60/40 split rear seats fold flat. With the rear seats up, you get 648-litres of cargo space and 1,730 litres the seats down. All good.
Lastly, the driver looks at a useful instrument cluster that can spit out all sorts of information beyond speed and engine revs. The centre stack houses the infotainment gear and climate control and all of these do the job just fine. Nissan has fitted cupholders and storage places wherever possible.
Nissan has been selling a version of the Qashqai in Europe for many years. It’s a hit over the pond. It’ll be a success here in Canada, too, because it delivers what hundreds of thousands of Canadian car buyers want most: affordable functionality in a pretty package.
THE PAYMENT STORY
Month-to-month, if you take Nissan’s 2.99 per cent lease rate over five years, the loaded Qashqai ($29,498 plus fees) will run you $197 semi-monthly, versus $136 semi-monthly for the bare-bones wagon ($19,998-plus).
An extra $60 twice a month doesn’t seem like very much, does it? Except that after five years you’ll need to either buy out the lease (for about $11,000 on the SL) or get yourself a new payment.
Or you could just buy that fancy SL, taking advantage of Nissan’s 2.99 per cent rate and after seven years at $192 biweekly, you own it. And you will likely get 3-5 years of solid use out of what’s left of today’s new Qashqai.
2017 Nissan Qashqai SL AWD
Price: $29,498 plus $1,950 for freight, PDI and various fees. As tested: $34,283.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder (141-horsepower/147 lb-ft of torque)).
Transmissions: CVT or continuously variable transmission.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.1 city/7.5 hwy.
Comparables: Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3. Honda HR-V